Prosecutors Reconsider Assault Charges in Bell Case

Salt Lake County prosecutors are again considering filing charges against members of a neighbor family who attacked David “DJ” Bell and his partner in July. Bell is accused of kidnapping two children from the family during the early morning hours of a Fourth of July party. 

The beatings took place after the mother of one of the children located the two toddlers, crying but unharmed, in Bell’s house next door.

Bell has previously said that he took the children, aged two and four, to his house because they were unable to sleep during the party. He has also said that the children came to his door crying and looking for their mother, a statement which an eyewitness later corroborated.

After she took the children home, five adults from the family broke into Bell’s house and attacked Bell and his partner, Dan Fair, who had been sleeping. The adults beat Bell’s head against the driveway outside and cut his face and toe with broken glass. They also threw a television at Fair’s head and broke his right eye socket.

In August, prosecutors with the county said they lacked enough evidence to file assault or burglary charges against the attackers. At the time, their decision outraged Bell’s supporters, who said that the South Salt Lake police had conducted a “one-sided investigation,” and had not asked for witness statements from anyone inside Bell and Fair’s house at the time of the attack.

At the time the prosecutors made their decision, Tlulu Latu, the mother who found the children in Bell’s house, told the Deseret Morning News that her family remembers “regret[ted] beating them up [Bell and Fair] as badly as we did.”

“But we don’t feel bad, because what if it [had turned into] another case of murdered children?” she continued.

Deputy District Attorney Alicia Cook said that the attack has been under review “for some time” now because of a “different theory” about what had happened in the Bell residence that night. This alternate theory, she added was brought up by “someone within our office” and has required “some additional investigation” — an investigation complicated, she said, by the pending criminal case against Bell. She said she could not give details about the new theory prosecutors are considering.

Although many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Utahns have called Bell and Fair’s beating a hate crime, Cook said her department is not looking at the case again because of their protests, or because of anything written about the case or any statements made by Bell’s attorneys.

Susanne Gustin, one of Bell’s attorneys, told the Salt Lake Tribune called the beating of the men a hate crime.

Cook said it would be “a long time” before her office makes a decision in the case of the beatings. At the same time, the Tribune reported that attorneys in South Salt Lake City have not yet said whether they will file misdemeanor charges against the attackers.

Bell’s trial is scheduled for April.

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